Preparation Is Key: What to Pack and Wear on Your Next Hike
Even those new to life outdoors know there’s one rule more crucial than all the rest: Be prepared. These two simple words are foundational to survival training and appear in all the most important survival resources, from the Scout Motto to the Principles of Leave No Trace to the pages of Bushcraft 101. Whether you’re heading out for a long-distance backpacking journey or are simply embarking on a short hike, you must always prepare.
Being prepared for anything means anticipating rain, wind, harsh sun, stings, bites and wildlife encounters. However, when hiking, you need to be prepared without weighing yourself down. For day hikes, you’re limited to only the essentials you pack in your backpack or on your body, so you have to be discerning about what you bring.
If you can wear it, wear it. For example, an LED flashlight is essential but takes up room in your pack. Instead of carrying a flashlight, wear a headlamp if you’re planning to hike in low-lit conditions. The same goes for your H2O. Wearable hydropacks can be a godsend on long hikes.
Stock your pack with emergency supplies. Even minimalist survivalists pare down to a few key emergency essentials. This is especially important for those heading out on all-day hikes, backpacking trips and remote hikes in treacherous territory. Short-distance hikes may not require on-trail emergency supplies, but you should still always keep a kit in your car. If you only have a small backpack or waist pack, prioritize the following items:
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- A small first-aid kit with only the essentials
- Fire-starter and matches packed in a waterproof hard case
- A compass and a foldable paper map
- A laminated wilderness survival guide
- A packable rain coat, poncho or emergency blanket
- A multi-tool with a knife
- Rockpals 330W Power Station
- Emergency rope or cord
- An emergency whistle or flares
ReadyWise offers a 64 Piece Survival Kit Backpack that is perfect to store in your car, house, boat, etc. It is a great backpack to bring along on adventures in case of emergency. It comes packed with food and water pouches, first aid and hygiene supplies as well as survival equipment and even entertainment items.
Remember your sustenance. Don’t embark without packing enough water and nutrient-dense snacks. The fact is that you’ll be expending a ton of energy on your hike and you’ll probably need to replenish along the way. Granola bars, mixed nuts and, yes, even trail mix are good options. Make sure to bring extra water if hiking with your dog.
Memorize what you can. Next to preparation, the most important survival skill you can master is wilderness knowledge. Rather than weighing down your backpack with field guides, study them beforehand and arm yourself with potentially life-saving information, like what’s safe to eat and what’s poisonous. (Side note: Make sure you really study your field guides, as mistaking a poisonous plant or mushroom as safe can be seriously risky.)
Download your maps, especially if you’re hiking in a remote area or plan to divert from the trail. On your maps app, download the map in the area where you plan to hike. This ensures that, should you get off track, you can still access your maps even where there’s no cell service.
One of the ways we prepare for wilderness outings is by optimizing protection and storage via our apparel. These days, technical hiking gear can do a whole lot for you, from shielding you from the sun to keeping your phone completely dry. Often, proper apparel can even help you lighten up your load and haul less gear so you can push yourself further down the trail.
Summer hikes require sun-protective clothing. Look for hiking clothing that’s rated to an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50 for the best sun protection. Be sure to wear a sun hat and apply sunscreen every two hours or more if you’re sweating a lot.
Triple-down on the pockets. For short hikes without kids, you may be able to get away with not bringing a backpack, but you’re still going to need a place for your keys, phone, first-aid kit and sunscreen. The solution, of course, is pockets! Look for technical hiking gear outfitted with cargo pockets and zippered pockets to keep your items dry.
Go ultralight. In outdoor adventuring, the term ultralight is used to refer to backpacking with only the essentials, keeping all your gear under 10 pounds. This will help you go farther and enjoy your hike more without putting extra strain on your back. Going ultralight may require you to trade up old, bulky gear for newer stuff, but if you do your research and go with warrantied brands, it can serve you for life.
Consider the neck gaiter. Neck gaiters are tubes of thin, stretchy fabric that can be worn around the face and neck, and they are amazingly versatile when camping, hiking or spending time outside! They help you stay dry and warm in inclement weather while shielding your skin from damaging UV rays in the summer. They are also great for keeping bugs at bay.
Layers are your friend. We know it sounds basic, but it’s important that you don’t overlook this small piece of advice. Build up an outfit of layers, beginning with a base layer and finishing either with a light shell or coat, depending on the weather. Choose top and mid layers that can be comfortably tied around your waist. This ensures that you stay warm, dry and comfortable regardless of the weather.
Get a pair of designated hiking shoes or boots, especially if you plan to make hiking a hobby. Hiking is literally just walking for fun, so your shoes matter a whole lot. A good pair of shoes can prevent pain, discomfort and injuries on the trail.
Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going
If you plan to venture off the beaten path, spend the night out in the woods or go hiking in a remote area, make sure to let someone know exactly where you’re going. Be specific about the exact trail and trailhead, and send a dropped pin if necessary. This ensures that you are easily located should something go awry.
With all of these great tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the wilds in the way they were meant to be enjoyed — safely! As long as you arm yourself with the right knowledge, gear and apparel, you’ll be able handle anything the trail throws your way.
Author: Kyle Shaw